All Booked: Local Author Spotlight on Via Bleidner

Q&A with Essayist Behind ‘If You Lived Here You’d Be Famous by Now’

Via Bleidner’s recently published selection of essays, If You Lived Here You’d Be Famous by Now, chronicles her experience growing up in Calabasas and transferring from a private Catholic school to a public high school. Her essays are funny and heartwarming and can now be found, printed and bound, at any bookstore near you. Bleidner currently lives in Isla Vista and is attending UCSB’s College of Creative Studies, where she studies writing and literature. Below are a few questions she recently answered for the Independent.

Credit: Courtesy

First of all, congratulations! It must be so exciting to see your work in published form. Can you tell us a little about how it feels and what it was like?

The entire publication timeline took a little over two years, but I started working on this book and pitching it a whole year before that process even began, back when I was 18. Now that it’s out, I’m relieved — but also, like, so nervous. It’s such a weird feeling. Select parts of the book were plucked from my diary, and now it’s on bookshelves. Sometimes I get anxious thinking about that, but overall, I’m pretty excited. And people have been so nice!  

Can you give us a short description of your book?

Sure! It’s a collection of stories about growing up in the San Fernando Valley. To be more specific, it’s about what I saw at Calabasas High School, a public school located right in the crosshairs of L.A. celebrity weirdness and typical, run-of-the-mill suburban boredom. And the string that ties everything together is the internet and how it’s “raised” Gen-Z. 

What inspired you to put your essays into a collection? 

Truthfully, I’d never written anything so long before. It made sense for me to break my book up into smaller chunks, so I could dedicate all my attention towards a particular idea or event rather than try to create one big narrative. Somehow, by the time I finished my final draft, the stories had kind of attached to one another. Now it’s a little more fluid, but I like it!

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I went from a Catholic school to a public high school as well so I understand the culture shock there. That is something you write about in your book; tell us a bit about it.

I found that Catholic school didn’t really prepare me for much. When you’re young, the way that adults act towards you makes a pretty big impression. Even punishment had a different implication. When you go to detention at a public school, you’re concerned that it might end up on your permanent record. But when you go to detention at a Catholic school, you’re worried you’ll go to hell.

Via Bleidner | Credit: Courtesy

When did you start writing about the experience of growing up in Calabasas?

I started when I was still in high school. I kept a journal throughout my teen years, so I had some pretty detailed reference material when I decided to take my writing a little more seriously.

How did you choose which essays to include in the collection? Did you end up leaving a lot on the cutting-room floor?

Yes, there are some essays that didn’t make it. When I started, I was a bit more ambitious; my initial essay breakdown had a much wider scope and included a lot of extraneous storylines or characters. Sarah, my editor, really helped me pare it down.

Are you working on any new projects?

I’d like to continue writing about the internet and pop culture, but for now, I’ve just been trying to read as much as possible. I hope to start something new soon!

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